Professor Hanneke W.M. van Laarhoven is professor of translational medical oncology at the University of Amsterdam and head of the Department of Medical Oncology of the Amsterdam University Medical Centers. Van Laarhoven is a staunch advocate of interdisciplinarity, as is evidenced by her two masters - in Medicine and Theology (both cum laude), as well as her two PhDs - in Medical Oncology (cum laude) and Religious Studies. In her quest for new, better treatment options for cancer patients, she seeks collaboration with both the sciences and the humanities.
Van Laarhoven’s translational research focusses on gastrointestinal cancer, specifically esophagogastric and pancreatic cancer. From the very beginning of her career, she has been intrigued by the possibility to elucidate tumor biology in vivo and non-invasively and she has developed a unique research line at the crossroads of medical oncology, radiology/nuclear medicine, and tumor biology. Her group investigates the interplay between tumor cells and stromal cells, with a specific focus on the development of treatment resistance and possible implications for novel therapies. To facilitate this research, she invested in the creation of a large biobank with tumor and blood samples as well as patient derived cell lines and organoids of the patients under study.
She is leading several multi-centre investigator initiated clinical trials which include substantial correlative biomarker work. Furthermore, she is one of the founding mothers of a prospective database for the collection of real world clinical data and patient reported outcomes of patients with esophagogastric cancer (www.pocop.nl) and pancreatic cancer (www.pacap.nl). Additional research initiatives include studies regarding quality of life, shared decision making and spiritual care. Currently, she is supervising more than 30 PhD students, post-docs and research assistants from different backgrounds, such as medicine, biology, artificial intelligence, international health, humanities, and psychology. Van Laarhoven published more than 390 peer-reviewed articles and numerous abstracts for national and international meetings.
Her research network entails an extensive number of collaborations with national and international recognized scientists, as is evidenced from the many different co-authors of the papers she contributed to. In addition, she has collaborated with spiritual counsellors and artists (cf. her contribution to the Art Catalogue of the AMC, https://amc.nl/kunstcatalogus, and the initiation of the ‘dating website’ of the Royal Academy of Sciences for scientists and artists, https://www.akademievankunsten.nl/nl/projecten/mingler-network). As a result of her multidisciplinary interest, she has been elected as a member of the Young Academy of the Royal Dutch Society of Sciences (www.dejongeakademi.nl); 2014-2019) and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences (2019-present).
Her experience in supervision and teaching has allowed her to contribute to the generation of young researchers and health care professionals who are aware of the power of multidisciplinary research. This has also been recognized by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) that invited her to participate in the ESMO Leaders Generation Programme (2018, 2019) and take part in the ESMO Leadership Generation Task Force (2020-present). As of 2021 she is faculty coordinator of the ESMO Gastrointestinal Tumours, non-Colorectal group.
Van Laarhoven closely collaborates with national and international patient organizations (cf. www.nfk.nl, www.spks.nl, www.digestivecancers.eu). In her opinion, one of the important tasks of academic researchers is to make results from scientific research available to society. Therefore, she has given several interviews for radio, television and written (lay) press about her work. In 2019, she became member of the ESMO Press Committee which selects abstracts for press attention and comments on study results.
Last update: February 2021